Sometimes an author you enjoy ventures into new territory. I’ve been a fan of every Joseph Badal thriller I’ve read. Now I’m a fan of his new mystery series featuring Detectives Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez.
In Borderline, the two detectives tackle a murder case involving a much-despised woman and the many people who wanted her dead. Badal knows how to develop believable characters. Both Barbara and Susan have plenty of moxie when it comes to their work, but on the home front problems plague them.
Badal lets us inside the heads of his characters as he spins a complex yarn. The story takes us to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department. Beautiful Victoria Comstock left few mourners when her killer hacked her up with a spear. Lassiter and Martinez find it difficult to nail the perpetrator when everyone they question has strong feelings about the victim and, in most cases, a stronger motive.
Politics, police work, revenge, and sex. Borderline has it all. The plot works and you never know what is coming until you turn the page.
Review by Pat Avery (March 2019)
BORDERLINE is a 74,300-word mystery. The story is inspired by actual events.
Two homicide detectives, Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez, are assigned a case where the female victim, a narcissistic borderline personality, has made a lifetime game of destroying people’s lives. The murder case becomes more complicated as the list of possible perpetrators grows.
Barbara Lassiter, a thirty-four-year-old homicide detective, is mourning the recent death of her husband. She poorly deals with the daily harassment meted out by a male co-worker, has found refuge in alcohol, and fights weight and depression problems. Her partner, Susan Martinez, a thirty-two-year-old world-class beauty with brains, guts, and an irreverent sense of humor, has marital problems.
The detectives must put aside their personal issues to try to solve the brutal murder of the wife of one of New Mexico’s richest and most powerful men. The victim, Victoria Comstock, had a narcissistic borderline personality disorder and collected enemies like most people collect coins. The detectives find themselves enmeshed in a helix of suspects with opportunity, means, and motive—and question giving their best efforts to solve the case the more they learn about the victim’s hideous character.
Their job gets tougher when Victoria’s psychiatrist, Nathan Stein, is murdered, and videotapes turn up that show the doctor had serial sexual relationships with a large number of his female patients, including Victoria Comstock and Connie Albans, the daughter of Marge Stanley. Marge had been Victoria’s best friend until she discovered Victoria in bed with Marge’s husband. Marge divorced her husband, who subsequently committed suicide. Victoria not only destroyed Marge’s marriage and contributed to Marge’s husband’s death by suicide, but she also had interfered with Marge’s relationship with her daughter.
A private detective, Shawn Navarro, who investigated Victoria Comstock on behalf of Marge Stanley, volunteers to share information with the detectives. Barbara develops feelings for Navarro and is motivated to stop drinking alcohol and embarks on a fitness program. For the first time since her husband’s death, she has a positive outlook about her future.
Victoria Comstock’s husband pulls political strings and gets Barbara and Susan taken off his wife’s case. But the detectives disobey orders and work the case on the side, convinced they are close to identifying Victoria’s killer. When Susan’s estranged husband critically wounds her, Barbara must continue alone. She is convinced Marge Stanley, the prime suspect, is not the murderer. But the path to the killer appears to go through Marge and her daughter, Connie. Both murder victims, Victoria Comstock and Nathan Stein, had given Marge plenty of reason for her to hate them, but Barbara is sure Marge is innocent. She comes to believe that someone who loves both Marge and her daughter, Connie, is responsible for the murders. She zeroes in on Marge’s father.
But things are not as they seem. It turns out that Navarro was in a long-term relationship with Marge Stanley. He is playing Barbara in order to learn about her progress with the case and to try to steer her away from Marge, because he believes that Marge actually murdered Victoria. Navarro also believes, based on what Marge has told him, that he is Connie’s father.
Barbara, with Susan’s help from her hospital bed, proves Navarro actually murdered Stein and Marge’s mother murdered Victoria.
Susan recovers from her wounds and returns to work. Barbara, whose heart has been broken by Navarro, realizes that, in actuality, he has helped her get her life back on the right track. Barbara and Susan’s success in solving the crimes earns them promotions.
The story offers an interesting cast of characters, two heroic female detective-protagonists, a diabolical villain, plenty of suspense, and an ending that will surprise and shock the reader.
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 298